Statement of the International Committee of the Fourth International
How the WRP Betrayed Trotskyism

The WRP Breaks with Trotskyism

The sections of the International Committee learned of the crisis within the WRP at various times in September and October 1985. By the time all the sections knew what was taking place, charges for Healy’s expulsion had already been brought before the Central Committee and had passed by 25 to 12. An attempt to expel all those who had opposed the expulsion motion was stopped solely through the intervention of several IC delegates who, having arrived earlier in London, emphatically opposed organizational measures to settle political questions.

The scene which the IC delegates confronted as they assembled in London for an emergency meeting in late October defies description. What had appeared to be a smoothly running machine had exploded and was discharging red-hot fragments in all directions. The old apparatus that served as the bedrock of Healy’s despotism was breaking down into its constituent elements, setting into motion that most frightening of all social spectacles—the stampede of the enraged petty bourgeois. The terrible political degeneration of the WRP under Healy was mirrored most clearly in the political bewilderment and disorientation of those whom he had supposedly trained.

The ICFI sought to provide a principled basis for resolving the crisis within the Workers Revolutionary Party. But first it had to deal with problems within its own ranks. The Greek and Spanish sections had organized a separate factional meeting in Barcelona on October 21, 1985 and declared that they would recognize no authority inside the ICFI except Gerry Healy. He alone, they claimed, had the right to call meetings. Thus, they refused to attend. By October 23, 1985, a majority of the IC sections were assembled in London. They correctly analyzed that the source of the crisis within the WRP had been the opportunist repudiation of Trotskyist principles and its refusal to subordinate itself to the International Committee.

After examining the evidence of Healy’s gross abuse of authority the ICFI sections agreed that his expulsion was necessary—but its analysis of his degeneration was of an entirely different character than that which was being advanced by Slaughter and Banda. In an effort to prevent any political clarification within the WRP, Slaughter—consciously and cynically—set out to whip up a factional frenzy among the middle-class elements. The sexual aspect of Healy’s degeneration was placed at the center of the discussion, and Slaughter introduced the theory that Healy and the minority were “near fascists.” The implication of this theoretical monstrosity was that no further political analysis of the degeneration of the WRP was really necessary. In rejecting this position, the ICFI delegates recognized that Healy’s crimes could only have taken place in an organization whose central leadership had abandoned Trot— skyism and the struggle for Marxist principles inside the working class. Moreover, the ICFI delegates identified the refusal of the WRP to subordinate itself to the discipline of an international movement as the fundamental characteristic of its degeneration. The preliminary analysis of the ICFI was summed up in two documents drafted prior to the meeting of the International Committee on October 25, 1985. The first resolution dealt with the reasons for Healy’s expulsion from the ICFI. We quote it in full:

“The International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) expels G. Healy from its ranks and endorses the decision of the Workers Revolutionary Party Central Committee to expel him from the British section.

“Healy grossly abused his political authority over a protracted period, using the cadre of the ICFI and the WRP for his personal purposes and violating their rights.

“In so doing he abused the political trust and confidence placed in him by all sections of the ICFI.

“The practices which he carried out constituted an attack on the historically-selected cadre of the Trotskyist movement.

“The ICFI has in its possession overwhelming evidence establishing the ground for Healy’s expulsion.

“The ICFI is by no means unmindful of or indifferent to the political contribution made by G. Healy, but these abuses are so great that it is the duty and responsibility of the ICFI to take this course of action.

“There is no toleration of corruption within the ICFI. All leaders are accountable for their actions and cannot act outside the constitution of the Party.

“Healy has at no time made any attempt to contact the ICFI in order to try to refute the charges or to argue against his expulsion.

“On the contrary, in the recent period he conducted an unprincipled factional campaign within the ICFI exploiting personal contacts to portray himself as a victim of political conspiracy and to engage in a scurrilous slander campaign against leading members of the ICFI.

“In expelling Healy the ICFI has no intention of denying the political contributions which he made in the past, particularly in the struggle against Pabloite revisionism in the I950’s and the 1960’s.

“In fact, this expulsion is the end product of his rejection of the Trotskyist principles upon which these past struggles were based and his descent into the most vulgar forms of opportunism.

“The political and personal degeneration of Healy can be clearly traced to his ever-more explicit separation of the practical and organizational gains of the Trotsky ist movement in Britain from the historically and internationally grounded struggles against Stalinism and revisionism from which these achievements arose.

“The increasing subordination of questions of principle to immediate practical needs, centered on securing the growth of the party apparatus, degenerated into political opportunism which steadily eroded his own political and moral defenses against the pressures of imperialism in the oldest capitalist country in the world.

“Under these conditions his serious subjective weaknesses played an increasingly dangerous political role.

“Acting ever-more arbitrarily within both the WRP and the ICFI, Healy increasingly attributed the advances of the World Party not to the Marxist principles of the Fourth International and to the collective struggle of its cadre, but rather to his own personal abilities.

“His self-glorification of his intuitive judgments led inevitably to a gross vulgarization of materialist dialectics, and Healy’s transformation into a thorough-going subjective idealist and pragmatist.

“In place of his past interest in the complex problems of developing the cadre of the International Trotskyist movement, Healy’s practice became almost entirely preoccupied with developing unprincipled relations with bourgeois nationalist leaders and with trade union and Labour Party reformists in Britain.

“His personal life-style underwent a corresponding degeneration.

“Those like Healy, who abandon the principles on which they once fought and who refuse to subordinate themselves Jo the ICFI in the building of its national sections must inevitably degenerate under the pressure of the class enemy.

“There can be no exception to this historical law.

“The ICFI affirms that no leader stands above the historical interests of the working class.”

The second resolution outlined the political means through which the crisis could be overcome and the WRP saved as a Trotskyist organization. It sought to avoid a further split inside the British organization and create the conditions for political clarification:

“The present political situation in the Workers Revolutionary Party has produced the biggest crisis in the International Committee of the Fourth International since its formation in 1953.

“What is in danger are all the achievements made in the decades-long struggle to build the Trotskyist movement in Britain and internationally. None of those gains would have been made without the protracted and difficult struggle against Stalinism and Pabloite revisionism in which the

leadership of the WRP and its predecessor, the Socialist Labour League played the decisive role.

“All the sections of the ICFI were formed as a result of the struggle by the British comrades against the attempt of Pabloite revisionism to liquidate Trotskyism.

“At the root of the present crisis which erupted with the exposure of the corrupt practices of G. Healy and the attempt by the WRP Political Committee to cover them up, is the prolonged drift of the WRP leadership away from the strategical task of the building of the world party of socialist revolution towards an increasingly nationalist perspective and practice...

“The first step towards overcoming the crisis in the WRP is the recognition by its leadership and membership that it requires the closest collaboration with its co-thinkers in the ICFI.

“In the past the WRP has correctly urged its international comrades to always begin from the needs of the world party and not from narrow national considerations.

“Now the ICFI calls on all leaders and members of the WRP, whatever their legitimate differences on perspectives and program, to subordinate themselves to the discipline of our international movement and uphold its authority.”

Therefore, the IC proposed three measures to resolve the crisis:

“(1) The re-registration of the membership of the WRP on the basis of an explicit recognition of the political authority of the ICFI and the subordination of the British section to its decisions.

“(2) Full collaboration by every member of the WRP with an International Control Commission to investigate, but not limited to, the corruption of G. Healy, the cover-up by the Political Committee, and the financial crisis of the WRP.

“(3) All charges against members of either the minority or majority factions, which have arisen as a result of the eruption of the crisis in the Party shall be referred to the International Control Commission.

“All disputes are internal to the WRP and the ICFI, and must remain so...

“We recognize that our British comrades work under enormous class pressures generated by the ruling class of the oldest capitalist country. These can be surmounted only on the basis of a truly internationalist practice.

“We again appeal to all members of the WRP to recognize their historical responsibility to the Fourth International, the international implications of their decisions, and to therefore accept these proposals.”

These resolutions make very clear that the ICFI had not been overwhelmed by the events, and that in the midst of subjective hysteria and turmoil it was able to understand and explain the crisis within the WRP in completely objective and Marxist terms. It could not be stampeded by the enraged petty bourgeois in both factions. This fact alone was a powerful confirmation that the International Committee had undergone a political development independent of the WRP. In asserting the authority of the Fourth International over the WRP, the International Committee was setting out to place the work of the British section upon, after so many years, a Trotskyist foundation.

At its meeting on October 25, 1985, the International Committee fought with the WRP delegation to accept the ICFI proposals for the resolution of the crisis. Of its four delegates, only Dave Hyland—the WRP organizer in South Yorkshire who throughout the summer had led the fight against the Political Committee’s cover-up of Healy’s abuses of cadre—supported them fully. While unable to present any political explanation for the crisis within the WRP nor elaborate the programmatic and principled issues in dispute, Banda, Slaughter and P. Jones strenuously opposed any clarification of the Party. They declared repeatedly that the only issue was Healy’s sexual practices.

But what they opposed most of all was the demand that the WRP recognize the political authority of the ICFI over the British section. Neither Slaughter nor Banda were prepared to give up the national autonomy of the WRP to do as it pleased inside Britain and within the international workers’ movement. The ICFI made clear that if the WRP would not accept the authority of the International Committee, then there would exist no basis for further fraternal collaboration. After many hours of discussion, Banda, Slaughter and Jones suddenly changed their position and declared their agreement. Later they would claim—and for once honestly—that their decision to accept the resolutions were dictated solely by tactical considerations related to their struggle against Healy’s supporters.

The next morning the ICFI contacted a representative of the Healy faction, Ben Rudder, to inform him that it would meet with the minority to put before it a proposal to avoid a split and organize a discussion under the supervision of the International Committee. In reply, Rudder indicated that the pro-Healy faction no longer considered itself part of the International Committee. The ICFI set aside a time and place to meet with the minority, but it did not come. Instead, it issued a statement denouncing the ICFI and declaring a split. This action served only to prove that Healy’s supporters would not work within the International Committee unless it could be used for their nationalist purposes. On the next day, October 27, 1985, the Special Conference of the WRP overwhelmingly, with no votes against and only a few abstentions, approved the ICFI resolutions.

However, it soon became clear that the Slaughter-Banda faction had no intention of accepting the subordination of the Workers Revolutionary Party to the ICFI. It immediately violated the resolution by summoning the capitalist press to the center in Clapham to provide the bourgeoisie with a lurid account of the WRP crisis. It then, again without any discussion on the IC, terminated the daily newspaper. At the same time, a hate campaign was whipped up inside the WRP against the International Committee. It was a continuation of the same anti-internationalism that had existed under Healy. The lead in this campaign was given by Cliff Slaughter, who appealed to every chauvinist and backward element in the WRP and outside it. To win support for his campaign against the International Committee, Slaughter organized a public meeting in London, under the bogus banner of “revolutionary morality,” in which he shook hands with a notorious Stalinist, Monty Johnstone, and called into question the entire history of the Fourth International.

As this was developing, the IC Control Commission gathered evidence documenting the WRP’s unspeakable betrayals of the International Committee and its betrayal of fundamental class principles. The interim report of the Control Commission was presented to the ICFI on December 16, 1985. This report made clear that the WRP had entered into mercenary relations with bourgeois states in the Middle East and sold principles for money. On the basis of this evidence, the ICFI voted to suspend the WRP. Three of the four WRP delegates—Slaughter, Tom Kemp and Simon Pirani, voted against the resolution. Only Dave Hyland voted with the IC delegates from the other sections. The suspension was not simply a disciplinary action. The International Committee made clear that these betrayals had taken place because the WRP leadership had abandoned Trotskyism. Therefore, it could not function within the ICFI without terminating the unprincipled relationship which had existed under Healy during the past decade and re-establishing a genuine programmatic agreement with the world party, based on internationalism.

Thus, the ICFI put forward another resolution in which it called upon the British delegates to reaffirm their political agreement with the historical foundations of the Trotskyist movement. These foundations were identified in the resolution as “the decisions of the First Four Congresses of the Communist International (1919-1922); the Platform of the Left Opposition (1927); the Transitional Program (1938); the Open Letter (1953); and the documents of the struggle against the bogus SWP-Pabloite reunification (1961-63).”

The resolution concluded:

“The ICFI and the Central Committee of the WRP shall now work closely together to overcome as quickly as possible the existing problems which are the legacy of the nationalist degeneration of the WRP under Healy, to reassert the basic principles of internationalism within the WRP, and on this basis restore its full membership in the International Committee of the Fourth International. The organizational structure of this relationship shall at all times be based on the Leninist principles of democratic centralism, which are elaborated in the statutes of the Fourth International.”

With the exception of Hyland, the WRP delegates—Slaughter, Tom Kemp and Simon Pirani—voted against this resolution. This confirmed that the degeneration of the WRP was, at essence, a repudiation of all the programmatic foundations of Trotskyism. It now became clear why the entire leadership had endorsed all the political betrayals that had been carried out by Healy. Furthermore, their vote against the resolution meant that they had no intention of correcting these positions and returning the WRP to the road of revolutionary Marxism. Finally, this vote established that the Workers Revolutionary Party had decided to formally split from the Fourth International. Far from having broken with Healy, Slaughter and Banda were developing his anti-Trotskyist line to its inevitable political conclusion.

Five weeks later, on January 26, 1986, the WRP Central Committee passed two resolutions formally declaring its split with the International Committee of the Fourth International. Two weeks before the scheduled opening of its Eighth Congress, the Central Committee—with only Hyland and two other members of his minority tendency voting against—repudiated the resolution which had been adopted at the Special Conference of the WRP on October 27, 1985.

The first resolution declared that “the IC is neither the World Party nor even the nucleus of the World Party” and that “the IC cannot claim political authority as an international leadership. Neither can sections be subordinated to an international discipline determined by the IC.”

The second resolution repudiated the re-registration of WRP members on the basis of recognizing the political authority of the ICFI.

These resolutions signified that the WRP had come full circle: it rejected all the internationalist traditions upon which the Trotskyist movement in Britain had been based. The analysis which the International Committee had made on October 25, 1985 was vindicated with stunning accuracy. We quote again: “At the root of the present crisis...is the prolonged drift of the WRP leadership away from the strategical tasks of the world party of socialist revolution towards an increasingly nationalist perspective and practice.”

Two weeks later, the WRP called police to prevent the pro-International Committee minority from entering the venue of the Eighth Congress. Mr. C. Slaughter entered the conference with a police escort. The political and moral collapse of what was once the British section of the International Committee of the Fourth International was completed. The WRP and all its subsidiary and multiplying factions had become another nationalist centrist appendage of British imperialism.

Those who had been excluded from the conference because they defended the International Committee assembled at another location to convene the legitimate Eighth Congress of the British section. The following month, they formed the International Communist Party.